It first happened a good number of years ago, I was returning from a late afternoon fishing trip from Long Island in early January. As I was making my way by boat through Middle Passage, ( a local term for the pass between Norwalk's Shea and Chimmons Islands) I notice something swimming in the water off my port bow. I slowed the boat to a crawl to see what was in the water.
My first thought was that it was four ducks swimming across my path, but there was something very different about these ducks,
they appeared to have ears. Long-eared ducks?
If you are a birder I'm sure your having a good chuckle at this point, since this would be a species never imagined in this area, no less the world. Anus aurismaximus perhaps?
In the diminishing light I slowly cruised closer to these mysterious creatures, the four ducks with long ears are now starting to resemble four deer, that are swimming from island to island.
This was the first time I had ever encountered deer swimming in winter around the islands, but the more time I spent in these wintry islands, the more frequent these sightings became.
The rest of this article is graphic, please do not read on if the sadder parts of nature bother you.
In time, I started thinking about why these deer are swimming from island to island in extremely cold water. Food, it has to be all about food.
Food is plentiful in the summer and autumn as vegetation abounds on the islands, but as winter takes hold, this abundance slowly recedes, to a point where there is little if anything for deer to eat. This is why they are on the move, the only problem is, is that the island they are swimming to has already been scoured of its last food sources and deer that were previously on this next island have moved on. It becomes disheartening to see deer passing each other, searching for food on a island the other has just left.
Sad as it is, this is a part of nature that plays out every day in the New England wild.
It's very hard to watch starving deer swimming against the tide, trying to make the mainland. Deer are incredible swimmers, but weakened by lack of food, freezing water temperatures and a tide they just cannot fight any longer, they turn back to the barren islands.
I often wonder; which are the lucky ones, the deer that safely swim back or those that don't ever make it?
After swimming against the tide for thirty minutes, this one makes it back to Sheffield Is.
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